The National Liberation Army (ELN) will release nine detainees without government assurances to guarantee safe passage for the former guerrilla group’s humanitarian efforts.
"We have decided to carry out the liberations on our own, at the risk of not having the minimum conditions for these humanitarian operations to have the best outcome," the ELN said in a statement Tuesday.
The group has turned to the United Nations and the Catholic Church for support and to ensure that "no misfortunes occur, as has happened in the history of the country.”
Following the arrest of a group of soldiers in early August in Choco and Arauca, the ELN showed interest in dialogue with the state over an early release; however, the inclusion of international mediators quickly snuffed out the government’s interest in bilateral negotiations.
"For this reason, the releases that could have been made not less than three weeks ago, haven't been done." The liberation will be done "without endangering the lives of the Armed Forces members," the ELN said of the three police officers, two civilians, and four military personnel in captivity.
Despite urgings from the Congressional Peace Commission last week, President Ivan Duque demanded that ELN release the detainees as a gesture of “peace and goodwill” before resuming peace talks.
The bilateral peace negotiations were suspended in August after the departure of former President Juan Manuel Santos. Duque, upon assuming office, presented a month-long deadline, ending September 7, to resume peace talks with ELN and continue towards its disarmament like other former armed groups before it.
The president said he would only consider dialogue with the group when they “suspend all criminal activities” and agree to “demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration.”